BAR HARBOR — Several properties that have been foreclosed on by the town over the past decade because of unpaid property taxes could be put out to bid this spring, according to action taken by the town council Tuesday.
Several property owners have promised to pay their bills, worth tens of thousands of dollars, within weeks, while two landowners were moved to turn out for Tuesday’s meeting to implore councilors to let them pay off their debts in stages over the next few years.
Walter Hooper, who owes the town nearly $24,000 in back taxes on his Knox Road house, told councilors that he was embarrassed to have to get up and basically beg for a deal. He said that after years of delinquency and false starts, he was finally in a position to begin regular payments. Hooper’s house, where he lives and has raised his family, was foreclosed on by the town in 2002.
“I didn’t intentionally plan on injuring the town in any way, and it does bother me. I had no choice. I had no money to do anything different,” Hooper said. “If you give me that chance, I’m standing here before you, I won’t break that promise again.”
Brent Hamor, whose land on Route 102 was foreclosed on by the town in 2009 because of an unpaid $8,000 tax bill, told councilors that he, too, was prepared to pay. He said he would give the town the entire amount over the next eight months, or face his property being put out immediately to bid.
Councilor Gary Friedmann moved quickly to accept the payment offers, stating that people deserved the opportunity to do the right thing and keep their property.
“I really don’t want to be in the position of putting people out of their homes,” Friedmann said.
Councilor David Bowden, however, was initially reticent towards accepting promises after years of inaction.
“My concern is, these aren’t last year’s liens or two years ago. These are 2002, 2005, 2009,” he said. “These people just haven’t made an effort. Now we’re down to the wire and … you want to change that.”
Bowden, however, was eventually swayed to compassion, as were the other councilors. The group voted 6-0 to accept both payment plans offered.
Two other property owners in foreclosure already are making payments. And, while those are not necessarily enough to get ahead of the principal, councilors agreed that such good faith efforts should be honored. They agreed to allow Robert Bothen, who owes $6,000 on a Knox Road property, and Allan Walls, who owes $5,000 on a Gilbert Farm Road property, to continue with their payments.
There are several properties with steeper tax delinquencies that councilors agreed to put out to the highest bidder should the debts not be paid off in the short term. These include the Cromwell Lane property of Robert Buzzell, which comprises a house and rental units, where the tax debt nears $32,000. Buzzell’s property was foreclosed on in 2007.
The estate of William Cowing owes the town more than $40,000 in taxes on a Bay View Drive home that was foreclosed on in 2010. Ann Spear owes $31,000 on her Crooked Road house. Finally, David Ray is facing having his Route 102 piece of land auctioned to the highest bidder after losing it to foreclosure in 2009 over $7,000 in unpaid taxes.
Town councilors first discussed taking action on the foreclosed properties at the beginning of last December. They decided at the time to have Town Manager Cornell Knight get in touch with the property owners to give them until Tuesday to find financing or sell their properties.
Knight said Tuesday that nearly every property owner had contacted him, although many not until this week. Both Spear and Buzzell have indicated that they plan on paying their tax debt in full over the next several weeks. The Cowing estate, however, has not replied.
Ray faces having his land put out to bid one month from now. The others, whose properties include houses, could see them put out to bid May 1 if payments are not made in full.